Roman and Alexandra Zaretsky 311 Hilary Leila Krieger.
(photo credit: Hilary Leila Krieger)
VANCOUVER – The Zaretsky siblings had just completed a energetic twizzle and spin sequence set to the rousing music of “Hava Negila,” smiles on their faces and arms outstretched to the audience.
It was a performance that should have elicited cheering and applause. On Monday morning, though, there was only silence.
But that was okay, because going through their routine days before taking the Olympic ice, there was only one audience member that counted: their coach, Galit Chait-Moracci.
And as her skaters glided and sashayed through an empty rink, she was pleased by what she saw.
Conferring with Roman and Alexandra Zaretsky on the side of the rink where the ice dancers hold their practices, Chait-Moracci’s feedback consisted of “minor, minor, minor” changes, as she put it.
“If you’re not ready by now, you’re not going to be ready. It’s too late,” she explained.
“Right now it’s just a matter of fine-tuning everything, keeping your spirits up, making small, small adjustments, nothing major, to keep it normal, to keep it going as we’ve had it up until now.”
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How it’s been going until now this season has been a seventh-place finish in the European Championships and third-place in the Skate America competition, both record finishes for the Israeli ice-dancing pair.
The duo is looking to crack the top ten in Vancouver, which would be well above their 22nd-place finish in Turin in 2006.
“Of course we want the medal,” Roman Zaretsky said following their practice. But he and his younger sister acknowledged that with the stiff competition they face during their three programs – compulsory, original and free dances on Friday, Sunday and Monday – they had no real chance of ending up on the medal stand.
Still, they said they’ve felt good at their practices, in which they’ve frequently had the luxury of getting the ice to themselves as other couples skip the group practice time.
Dressed in casual workout attire, the white handkerchief on Alexandra’s hand echoing Jewish tradition for the “Hava Negila” number is the only indication that this practice is on one of the final days before they hit the ice in front of some 14,000 Olympic spectators and millions more around the world.
“So far, so good,” Alexandra Zaretsky said of their last-minute training sessions. “Knock on wood.”
Her brother said it helped that this was their second trip to the Olympics and that they’d already spent several days in the Olympic Village getting used to being in their sport’s premier destination. “The first few days of course we were very pumped with the opening and everything. Now [we’re] pretty relaxed,” he said. “That’s why we come early, to get the first emotions out and then get ready with a few practices and then go for it.”
As much as Chait-Moracci – herself a former Olympian – appreciates her
skaters’ composure, she also encouraged them not to take their Olympic
experience for granted. Her top advice to them: “Enjoy – because you
work so long for what is, all together, eight or nine minutes
[performing]. So enjoy, because it’s such an exciting time – it’s the
most exciting time in your life.”
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